MANKATO — Hard to believe it’s only been a week since the Vikings reported to training camp. Being cooked by the big ball in the sky must slow down the space time continuum or something.
Either way, there’s been enough time and practices to give at least five thoughts on the 2016 Vikings. Here goes …
1, Player of camp: Easy. A lot of guys look good to great, but defensive end Everson Griffen is at the top of that mountain. The Bengals aren’t going to like the pace Griffen will be practicing at next week in Cincy.
Some have suggested Everson looks especially good because he’s going against the inconsistent Matt Kalil. But I actually see Kalil stepping up his game and competing hard. Like offensive coordinator Norv Turner told me, guys in Kalil’s shoes either get better or get embarrassed on every snap when they face a guy like Griffen. Kalil, I think, is getting some value out of this.
Everson has had two very good seasons and, to me, is a better all-around player than Jared Allen was. But it says something that Griffen is this determined to get even better.
2, Backup QBs. I get why the Vikings were interested in Nick Foles, who reportedly is on his way to the Chiefs. As former NFL personnel man Ernie Accorsi used to tell us, the second most important player on the roster is your No. 2 quarterback. He found that out in Cleveland one year when he went through four QBs and still made the playoffs.
Shaun Hill can be a satisfactory backup because he knows his place and he knows what he can and can’t do. But General Manager Rick Spielman isn’t going to sit still if there’s a chance to upgrade the arm strength and age of a key backup. With an open roster spot, he could have kept Hill until the team got comfortable with Foles.
Hill appears to struggle with some throws, but I’m not alarmed that he’s the backup. In today’s league, there are no Steve Youngs backing up Joe Montana’s.
As for Joel Stave, I’d say he looks like an undrafted rookie typically looks.
3, Liking Robinson. There are a few walking examples of the kind of talent that can be unearthed and tutored successfully when the coaching staff and the personnel side both understand specific traits that fit a particular team. Second-year linebacker Edmond Robinson is becoming one of those examples this year. Kind of like raw third-rounder Danielle Hunter did a year ago.
But in Robinson’s case, he was a seventh-rounder out of Newberry last year. He started the Arizona game last year and held his own. He’s getting more and more looks now as the coaching staff likes what it’s seeing from a kid who’s obviously a hard worker who pays attention to coaching.
Guys like Robinson, Hunter, rookie seventh-round safety Jayron Kearse, rookie seventh-rounder Stephen Weatherly and veteran free-agent acquisition Emmanuel Lamur remind me of what the Vikings were looking for when they drafted Anthony Barr. Athletes with more height and longer bodies and arms than we’re accustomed to seeing at their positions.
4, Boone a beast. I’m not sure where things will end up on the offensive line. The great Battle Royale of competitions fizzled when Phil Loadholt retired and Mike Harris was placed on the non-football illness list. But one of the things I’m most confident in saying is Alex Boone is a huge difference at left guard. Literally and in terms of aggressiveness.
One of my favorite players on recent Vikings teams was Charlie Johnson. Stand-up guy. But Charlie, especially at the end, would often get overpowered. When Kalil would get beat inside too often, many times Charlie would be right there to plug the hole only to get overpowered. I don’t think the NFL has many players, if any, who can overpower Boone.
5, Teddy B. He’ll never wow us with his arm. But that’s OK. The only thing Jeff George ever did was wow us with his arm. When I watch Bridgewater, I see an unselfish quarterback who hasn’t looked confused at all in practice, which is to be expected since he’s had the luxury of playing in the same system for the same coaches for three years. I like his timing, tempo and composure, although I’d sure like to see all of that taking place with Laquon Treadwell as part of the first unit. There’s still time, and the rook should earn his spot, but I can’t help but think he needs more time with Bridgewater and less time with Hill.